Two trucks have been stolen from Trowelex a collective five times (one stolen three times, the other, twice now), including a theft discovered just three days ago, and the RCMP's new Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) is on the job.
Trowelex owner Nick Chernoff said the most recent theft, discovered Monday, is just one of a string of incredibly frustrating crimes, in which trucks and trailers have been stolen from Trowelex, then used to transport stolen equipment from other, often local, businesses.
The equipment is then transported to other, larger urban centres like Kelowna, where police believe a buyer is likely already waiting, and the truck and/or trailer are abandoned and recovered by police.
The truck in this most recent theft was recovered Tuesday in Kelowna, although one piece of equipment in a previous theft was recovered as far away as Manitoba.
“It's quite annoying and frustrating,” Chernoff said, adding the situation is not without its irony. “The funny part is, she (Const. Allison Barker, who responded to the theft complaint) was just here talking to me on Friday about security.”
Based on ample past experience, Chernoff expressed his conviction, at the time, that the truck would prove to be the first of at least two, perhaps many more, equipment thefts.
“There was no trailer taken this time, but I'm pretty sure police will get calls about other missing stuff,” he said.
Sure enough, when the truck was recovered, its ball hitch was missing (meaning the perpetrators likely towed something with it) and it was found with a trailer and another piece of equipment (likely a bobcat, but reports aren't clear) that were reported stolen from Grand Forks.
Enter the city's new Crime Reduction Unit (CRU), the very existence of which is due, in part, to this kind of repeat crime.
The officer in charge of the CRU, RCMP Cpl. Mike Mysko, said he believes the crimes are being created by the same web, or network, of criminals ... and he doesn't think they're locally based.
“I'm speculating, but I think they feel comfortable targeting these areas and property ,” Mysko explained. “I think they're known as the go-to people to get cheap, stolen equipment and machinery.”
Further, he said he thinks they already have buyers in place ... and while he's not prepared to give them enough credit to call them “organized”, he does think they're probably experienced criminals.
He said the CRU, unlike general duties rotation with the RCMP, allows him and his partner the freedom to really dig into the investigation.
“We can pursue long term investigations without the interruption of on-going, day-to-day calls,” he said. “Our objective is all in the name – to reduce crime and increase public safety ... and to increase public involvement in reducing crime.”
Const. Stephen Montgomery, the other member of the CRU team, transferred from general duties in Castlegar to the new unit in hopes of affecting greater change.
“I want to make a difference,” he said. “For the most part, in the general duties of policing, we respond to complaints – for the most part, we have to be reactive, rather than proactive.”
He said the luxury of time that will allow him to pursue long term investigation is very appealing to him – and that's just one element of the CRU draw, for him, which also includes addressing repeat offenders here in town.
“(In general duties), we continuously arrest people, send them off to court, they get probation, then they breach probation, then we send them off to court again, where they get a longer probation sentence ...
"We want to develop relationships with (offenders) and help them create realistic solutions that can break this cycle.”
Check in with The Source for ongoing coverage of the equipment-theft investigation and the activities of Castelgar's newest policing unit.